On Joy and Sorrow

On Joy and Sorrow

Spike waits by the dumpster, careful not to stand too close. He has a perfect vantage point from here: the streetlight at one end of the alley and the metal fence at the other. He lights a cigarette and draws the smoke deep into his lungs, exhales.

“Waiting for someone?”

“Hello, Buffy,” he says turning to find the Slayer standing behind him, her arms crossed under her breasts, her hip cocked. He doesn’t have a clue where she came from.

“What are you doing here?” she says. “And never mind the I was just in the neighbourhood, thought I’d drop by crap, either.”

“No, I was waiting for you,” Spike says dropping the half-smoked cigarette to the ground and snuffing it out delicately with his boot.

“Look, Spike,” Buffy says and while her voice means business, her eyes are pleading. “This is not happening. We’re not…”

“Oh, get over yourself, Slayer,” Spike says. “I have.”

Buffy squares her shoulders and Spike feels the prickle of victory. Didn’t like that, did you? he thinks.

Spike sighs dramatically.

“Just a courtesy call,” he says.

Buffy unhooks her arms and lets them drop to her sides. “Look--”

Spike holds up his hands in mock defense. “Look yourself,” he says. “Just thought you’d like to know that Soul-Boy’s back in town.” He waits for, and is rewarded with, that look she always gets when someone says Angel’s name. Not that he’d actually said the name, but the result is the same nonetheless.

Then she recovers and it is almost as amusing to watch that.

“Are we done?” she asks.

Spike shrugs.

“Great.”

Spike watches her walk down the alley towards the streetlight and the relative safety of what is beyond.

*

Buffy goes to the mansion because she assumes that’s where he’ll be. A vein throbs insistently in her temple. It’s been a helluva week: Riley and Sam, breaking up with Spike and now Angel back for a visit.

Crossing the courtyard to the French doors, Buffy pauses and smoothes her hand over the back of her hair. She really shouldn’t be here, but she twists the handle on the door and steps into the room on the other side just the same.

“Angel?” she calls, but not very loudly. She closes the door behind her and walks further into the room. “Hello.”

She hears a scraping sound; a chair pushing against the stone floor? Then Angel rounds the corner, a book dangling from his hand, his shirt unbuttoned. And the sight of him, this sight, knocks the wind out of her. She could, if it wasn’t already a million years ago, almost be the same love-sick teenager who had snuck up here for clandestine meetings with her boyfriend.

“Buffy,” he says.

“Wow,” she says dropping her eyes to the floor so he won’t see straight through her, won’t see that seeing him again freaks her out just a little.

“How did you--? What are you doing here?”

“I live here,” Buffy says. “I mean not here here, obviously.”

“No, I mean--”

Buffy takes a step closer and looks up at Angel. “I heard you were in town.”

“Spike.”

“Who else?”

They stand looking at each other for a minute and then Angel says: “I should have called.”

“It’s always better to err on the side of a head’s up, I guess.”

“I’ll remember that for next time.”

Buffy twists her head a little to one side. “Is there going to be a next time, Angel? Because I thought the whole point of you leaving town was, you know—the leaving part.”

Angel smiles a little and gestures back into the Great Room with his book, a battered copy of The Prophet. He waits until Buffy passes him and then follows her over to the couch. He’s pulled off the dust cover and his leather coat is folded neatly over one arm of the sofa.

Buffy sits and a little puff of dust floats up into the air. She looks up at Angel and he sits beside her, not close.

“Look, I’m sorry I didn’t call. I didn’t even know I was coming here until I arrived.”

“How can you not know you’re coming here?” Buffy asks. “I mean Sunnydale is a destination not a detour.”

Angel is thumbing the dog-eared pages of his book, but that’s not what Buffy is watching; she’s watching his chest, the smooth skin visible beneath his open shirt.

“Buffy,” Angel says and she focuses her attention back to his face.

“Sorry,” she says. “It’s been a weird couple of days.”

“Yeah,” Angel agrees.

“I’m worn out, you know.”

Something like sympathy shines in his eyes and then disappears; it might have been a shadow.

“I should have called, Buffy,” Angel says. “And I don’t mean about me being here now, I mean before. After your mom and—I should have stayed in touch.”

Buffy bites her lip and looks down at her fingers which are twisted in a complicated knot in her lap. A shuddering memory rips through her: Spike’s hand in her hair, holding her still as he fucks her from behind.

“I’m so tired, Angel,” she says, leaning her head back against the couch.

She feels his fingers against her hand, a barely-there touch that sends a thrill of recognition up her spine. She closes her eyes.

And sleeps.

*

She is alone when she wakes up. Angel’s coat is across her lap and her mouth is dry. She has no idea of the time, can’t say for sure if she’s been asleep for an hour or a day. She rubs at her eyes and then pushes the coat off her lap and stands.

“You’re awake.”

Angel reappears: his shirt button, his face closed up, too.

“I’m sorry. I guess I haven’t been getting much sleep.”

“It’s okay,” Angel says. “It was sorta nice” he hesitates, seems to consider his words and then adds “watching you sleep. It was nice.”

“I should go,” Buffy says. She crosses the room.

“Buffy,” Angel says. His voice is like a beacon and it stops her in her tracks. She waits without looking back because she knows that if she has to face him in this weird space between sleep and wakefulness, she will crumble to ash.

“I came for you,” he says. “I didn’t know I was when I got in the car. I just started to drive, but I think I must have been coming for you all along.”

*

There is weird energy all around her, buzzing electricity that has nothing to do with him. He wants to put his hands on her, tame the dizzying sparks; he wants her to be able to rest. But Angel is certain that Buffy has been derailed, not just by the death of her mother, but by other more recent events.

It’s even more complicated than that, though. The dusky taste of Darla’s sex is still in his mouth. And Angel came here to rinse it away. Connor is gone. So, he’s lying when he tells her that he didn’t know that he’d end up in Sunnydale. He came for her.

She’s as skittish as a colt and he can see that she’s struggling to stand still, her arms locked at her sides.

“Buffy,” he says and she turns to look at him. He should let her go; he must, and this is probably why he doesn’t. It’s why he crosses the room and slides his palm along her cheek and tilts his head to kiss her.

The memory of Darla’s cold mouth evaporates in Buffy’s heat. She tastes like summer. The feel of her almost eclipses the feeling of holding Connor's tiny body against his.

She is thinner than he remembers. The last time he’d seen her, the night of Joyce’s funeral, she had seemed more solid. Now his hand, pressed against the small of her back, cradles bones.

“Angel,” she says and the word sounds desperate. “Angel.”

Her voice should break the spell, but all it does is make him hard. He sweeps her into his arms and carries her back over to the couch. His fingers find the buttons on her blouse; her hands find his and squeeze.

“It’s okay,” he says. But that’s a lie too. This is a few counties over from okay, but he feels as though he’ll die if he doesn’t touch her, trace the smooth skin between her breasts with his knuckles.

So he doesn’t meet her eyes; he slides the buttons free and pushes the material of her shirt out of the way.

“Don’t,” she whispers.

Her breasts are insubstantial, her nipples insistent against the satin of her pale pink bra. If he can just touch her, it will banish Darla, he knows it. It won’t bring Connor back, but it might make his loss hurt less. It will make everything all right with Cordy and Wes and Gunn.

He pushes at the material of her bra and bends his head to touch the flat of his tongue to her exposed nipple. She moans a little and he feels her hands slide into his hair. It gives him permission and he closes his mouth around her, sucking the puckered skin gently.

Now the electricity he thought he sensed around her is crackling against his tongue, pulsing against his fingers where they touch her. He pulls back and blinks up at her. She is watching him, her eyes steady.

He hesitates. The moment loses some of its potency, although his cock strenuously disagrees.

“Buffy,” he says, lifting his hand to touch her face. “Are you okay?”

Her face crumples a little and she shakes her head, a tiny gesture that breaks Angel’s heart.

*

Buffy buttons her blouse crookedly and doesn’t protest when Angel leans over to unfasten and then refasten the buttons properly.

She doesn’t know why he stopped, but she is glad because she knows that if he’d gone much farther he would have tasted Spike. Spike was all over her, in her. Angel’s arm is around her and her head is on his shoulder and it’s as though he never left, as though this is how they live, as though they’d never parted.

She knows he is working up to ‘goodbye’ again. She can feel the shift in the air and in his posture.

“Why did you come here, Angel?” she asks.

“Purely selfish reasons,” he says, shifting them a little so he can look at her. “No surprise, really. Things in LA haven’t been terrific.” Buffy senses that this is an admission he was hoping he wouldn’t have to make.

“Yeah, well, Sunnydale hasn’t exactly been the Mecca of fun, either,” she says.

“I’m sorry, Buffy. I should never have--”

“You don’t ever have to be sorry,” Buffy says. “Not with me.”

Angel nods. “You and me, we are seriously lacking in the perspective department.”

“As in we don’t have any?”

Angel smiles tightly. “Yeah.”

“Perspective is highly overrated,” she says.

“If I leave now, I could probably make it back to the city before dawn.”

Buffy nods. “Or-- you could stay for a little while longer.”

Angel tightens his arm around her. “I’d like that.”

*

Spike is waiting for her by the tree outside her front door.

“So, how is the big lummox anyway?”

“I’m tired, Spike,” Buffy says moving past him towards the front steps.

He leans close as she walks by.

“Are you smelling me?” she asks incredulously.

Spike straightens and frowns. “Don’t be ridic--” He pauses, reconsiders. “Yeah, alright then. I have a right, y’know.”

Buffy shakes her head and sits on the bottom step. “You really don’t, Spike.”

Spike drops onto the step beside her and digs into his pocket for his cigarettes.

“Did you ever think that maybe you have relationship issues, pet?” Spike locates his cigarettes and now he is patting his pockets in an effort to find his lighter.

Buffy drops her head forward and catches her chin in her hands.

“I have all sorts of issues, Spike. I’m sure ‘relationship’ tops the list.”

“He’s not the right bloke for you,” Spike says.

Buffy sighs and turns her head to look at Spike.

“And I suppose you are.”

Spike shrugs and pulls the lighter from his coat pocket, voila.

“I’d never leave you, that’s for sure,” he says.

“It isn’t about who leaves who,” Buffy says quietly.

“Whom,” Spike corrects. “Who leaves whom.”

Buffy shakes her head and stands.

“Whatever. Sometimes it’s enough to know he’s out there.”

Spike grabs her wrist, squeezes hard enough to spark something in her eyes.

“What’s this really about, Buffy? Is this about him or Soldier Boy or the fact that you just don’t want to admit…”

Buffy pulls herself out of his grasp.

“I told you I was using you,” she says.

“And Angel? Who’s he using then?”

Spike flicks his cigarette with the end of his finger. It sails through the air and lands at the end of the walk.

“Bloody perfect,” Spike says pushing himself off the step and starting down the path to the sidewalk. Before he’s gone a half dozen steps he turns around and points his finger at her.

“You think he loves you, but--”

“This isn’t about Angel, Spike.”

“It’s always about bleedin’ Angel,” Spike says dropping his hand. “Always.”

*

Trapped by the sun, Angel waits.

The sharp-edged memories of Darla are lodged in his throat like bile. He needs to go home. He needs to mourn the loss of his son. He needs to find his friends and make things right

He can’t love Buffy any more.

But he sure as hell can’t love her any less.

*

Buffy waits for sleep. In a few hours she’ll have to get ready for the lunch shift at the Double Meat Palace. She’ll have to clean the grease trap and mop the floors and make change for little old ladies on a fixed income.

Tonight, she’ll stake a few vamps and avoid Spike’s crypt. Not because she wants to, but because she has to. She’d like to ask him why he even bothered to tell her that Angel was in town, but she thinks she knows what he’d say anyway.

Compare and contrast, Slayer. Joy and Sorrow. He’s one and I’m the flippin’ other.

And Buffy thinks he just may be right.

THE END

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